And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” John answered, “Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9: 46-50)
What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants.
What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom?
The one who is humble and lowly of heart – who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child.
Jesus never says to us merely “Do what I say,” but always, “Come, follow me!” He sets the example for us to follow.
For us to become great, we first need to exercise our divine filiation to the full, allow Jesus to receive us as children, and then, learning from Jesus’ love for us, similarly extend that same, loving, often unrequited gift of self to all those children of God sent to us.
It is meant to characterize the Church as a whole and it’s therefore meant to radiate in every believer. It’s essential to the very definition of the culture of life. The culture of life is one in which we receive others in the name of God as we would receive Jesus himself. And that welcoming of course extends not just to children at the beginning of life, but God’s children at all stages.
Jesus mentions little children because little children cannot repay us. We are good to them not out of some quid pro quo but out of sacrificial love. Jesus’ lesson today is that the Church, and believers, become great through humbly and lovingly receiving others and is reduced whenever we reject with hardened heart.
It forces us to see the overlooked in our lives. You know who the overlooked are: the poor, the needy, the troubled, the non-persons who suffer because they have value in the eyes of so few. But the overlooked are also the people who tried to love us and we did not love in return, the people who cried out to us and we did not hear, and every person we did not treat with the value that they deserved.
We should remember to include ourselves in their number. Because everyone of us here has some part of our lives that we have overlooked. There is some flaw that we were not willing to face, some fear that we will not deal with. Not dealing with those parts of ourselves is disastrous. None of us can become the person that God wants us to be unless we are willing to admit that there are flaws and faults in our life that we have overlooked. If we had a second time around, would we not pray to see the people we have overlooked and the flaws in our own life that we were unwilling to face?
All of this requires a humble heart. The selfish ego withers when we walk the love of Christ.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your grace knows no bounds. You give freely to the humble of heart and you grant us freedom to love and serve others selflessly. May my love for you express itself in an eagerness to do good for others”.
If Christ were to ask what do you want me to strengthen in your daily life, the majority of us would answer that we want to see and live out the primacy of relationships in my life. I want to see the people I overlooked and the flaws in my own life I cannot face. I want to see the hints of your presence in my daily routine. If you make that request, do not be surprised if Christ will hear you. Do not be surprised if Jesus grants your prayer. For that is the good news. The promise of the gospel is that the second time around can begin today.